Interview with Enid Pinkney


Material Information

Interview with Enid Pinkney
Physical Description:
Oral history interview
Enid Pinkney ( Interviewee )
Ryan Morini ( Interviewer )


Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua


National Park Service Conference with the topic of the Underground Railroad, St. Augustine, Florida, June of 2012.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
University of Florida Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Resource Identifier:
spohp - URR 018 Enid Pinkney 6-23-2012
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! !"#$%&'()*+,&($-&.$!"#$/*+&.$0*+,&( $ "#!$%&'(!)**+,-&#.-/!0#1-.-&-.+# !"#$%&'()*+,*)'-)"&'./0,*)1'()*2)"# 2+((343!+5!6.73,'(!",-1!'#8!9:.3#:31 ;,+4,'!=,?!;'&(!),-.@ ABC!;&4D!E'(( F3:D#+(+4/!2++,8.#'-+, >!=37+,'D!E3#8,.G ;)!H+G!CCIACI J'.#31K.((3L!M6!NAOCC NIA P NQA P RCOS NIA P SBO P CQSN!M'G May 2013 The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, poli tical, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, jo urnalists, and other interested groups. Material has been used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers ref er to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available here ma y be in draft or final format. Draft transcripts are created by SPOHP workers who listen to the ori ginal interview recording and type a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to reflecting original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOH P transcribers refer to the Merriam Webster's dictionary, Chicago Manual of Style, and program specific style guide, accessible here: Style%20Guide%202013.pdf For more information about SPOHP, visit call the SPOHP office at 352 392 7168, or send an e mail to Tamarra Jenkins at


URR 018 Interviewee: Enid Pinkney Interviewer: Ryan Morini Date: June 23, 2012 M: Okay, so this is Ryan Morini. I am sitting here with Enid Pinkney on June 23, 2012. Can you state your full name for me please? P: Yes, my name is Enid Curtis Pinkney M: Can you spell it? P: P i n k n e y. M: When and where were you born? P: I was born in Miami, Florida. M: What was the date? P: I t was born October 15, 1931. M: And is that where you grew up? P: Yes, in Miami, Florida in a section of Miami called Overtown, the colored section [Just northwest of downtown, O vertown was o riginally call ed Colored Town during the Jim Crow era, the area was once the preeminent and is the historic center for commerce in the Black American community in Miami and South Florida ] M: I see. What do you remember from growing up in Miami? P: Well, I have very ple asant memories growing up with my family and going to church, going to school. My life centered around those two institutions and my neighborhood and we were like a family. The church was an outlet for my growth and development and special programs that th ey had like Christmas programs, Easter programs. I had t o learn what they called "my piece ". I had to commit it to memory and I had to make my parents proud and then in school, I was taught


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 2 that I had to excel because my parents were immigrants and they ha d come from the Bahamas. My father came from the Bahamas in 1910 and so he saw a lot in Miami and as I went to elementary school, to Dunbar Elementary School, from first through sixth grade and then I went to Booker T. Washington High School from seventh t hrough twelfth and I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1949. After that, I went to Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama and I graduated from with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Social Science and I have a masters degree from Barry Univer sity in guidance counseling. And I have an honorary doctorates degree from St. Thomas University in Miami. M: How did you get the honorary doctorate? P: Well, I have done quite a bit of writing about various aspects of my life. I wrote about Overtown being my town, growing up there and what it meant and the other families and that is one of the things that I like to do, is to write, and so I was recommended for it and had enough papers to show scholarly writings and I was accepted into the program. M: Just to back track for a moment, what was it that brought your father or your family here from the Bahamas or to Miami I should say? P: Okay, well my father came to Miami for better economic conditions and better opportunities. Back of course in that day when h e came, he was a farmer and then he used to dive. I hear them talking today about diving and of the, oh I forgot the name of the thing that they showed, for instance in Red Bay, in the Bahamas, sponging, he was a sponger. That was his occupation because it was good money in the Bahamas. But when he came to the United States, that was not a


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 3 lucrative job. So, he had to find other work and then he didn't have any land to farm on but he knew about the earth so he began doing gardening work and he was able to g et some very good jobs with some very wealthy white people who employed him mainly because he was trust worthy because they could leave their winter homes and go up North and they left him, he and my mother, on the premises to take care of it and they trus ted him with all of their valuables and they came back and everything was there. So he was able to recommend other Baha mians who came, his friends to some of their friends for jobs so as I would go along and meet people they would say to me, "your father gave me my first job when I came to this country." But he knew gardening also because that was another part of farming so he just transferred his skills with the earth. Then my mother was a maid and that is how they made their living and then they lived on premises, they lived where they worked, so what they had to do was they had to get my grandmother and my aunt to move into our house to be with us as children because we could not go to school on Miami Beach where they worked because I had to go segregate d schools. So my grandmother and my aunt stayed in the house with us so that we would have supervision and so that we would be able to go to school and have somebody there to take care of us. M: I see. So I guess you left Miami to go to school for higher education but did you return immediately thereafter or where else did you live in your life? P: When I left Talladega College I said I wasn't going to go back to Miami. I went to Chicago and I said that I called myself going up north where there was supposed to be better, but then I found out that it really wasn't better because as I made


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 4 friends and as we would go places, I remember one time, we went to a Boy Scout jamboree, they wanted to go. I was the only black in the group. I worked for a se ttlement house and they went to this Boy Scout jamboree and they asked if they could go in and the man told him yes, if you are white you can go in. So that meant I couldn't go in and they were really not aware of what was going on so they asked me, didn't I want to come, I said no, it's not that I don't want to go, it's that they don't want me in there. So that was an awakening for them. Another time that I was on a trip with them, we were going someplace. We stopped at a restaurant, and I like cheeseburge rs and french fries, so I ordered the cheeseburger and french fries and everybody got whatever they ordered in a plate and mine came in a basket. So they asked me, didn't you want a plate, I said yes I wanted a plate, but they are discriminating against me by giving me a basket. So I found out that discrimination was everywhere, it wasn't just in the south. The only difference in the discrimination in the south and the north was that in the north, it was subtle, in the south, it was pronounced with a sign It had a sign up saying white or colored. The fountain said white water and colored water or the restaurants, you had to sit here or sit there or in a movie, you sat in the balcony. So segregation was everywhere. People in the north somehow never felt that they were better because they were in the north and there wasn't the segregation that there was in the south, but there was segregation so I couldn't see the difference. So when my mother became ill and she wanted me to come back home, I said okay, I'll c ome back home because I could see the hypocrisy of the north and I'd rather deal with what you know in the south. So I


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 5 came back to Miami and I started teaching. I was doing group work at a settlement house in Chicago but I came back to Miami and I started teaching and then from there, I became a guidance counselor and then I became an assistant principal. I was an assistant principal for about twenty years and I retired. Then after that, I got into working for the Historic Hampton House [a popular motel an d social hub for African Americans in Miami during the 1950s and 1960s ] in the preservation of the Historic Hampton House Motel and that is one of the things that I am doing now. I am trying to preserve a historic site in Miami where Dr. Martin Luther Kin g first said his I have a dream speech and where Muhammad Ali [American boxer] had his victory party when he beat Sonny Liston and it was where all of the celebrities who came to Miami who could not stay on Miami Beach or in the white hotels, they would st ay at the Hampton House. They could perform in these hotels on Miami Beach but they couldn't live there. So the Hampton House was a very elegant place. It was owned by a Jewish couple but it was for the black population. We have a picture for instance of D r. Martin Luther King in the swimming pool at the Hampton House in his swimming trunks and we have a picture of Joe Lewis [American boxer] and Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson [American baseball player] and Althea Gibson and oh, we have pictures of all of these celebrities as they were at the Hampton House back in the day. M: So what have the threats been to the Hampton House in terms of P: Well, now it's a derelict building. It has been used for drug addicts as a home and Miami Dad e County was going to tear it down because it is considered a derelict


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 6 building. But a group of us got together and said that this is the last motel in Miami Dade that was here during the days of segregation, so to us it is a historic site. So we worked together to get local hi storic designation for the building and then we asked the county because we didn't have any money. We asked the county to buy it and the county bought it for four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Then, it still was a derelict building so we got it to be come a part of the general obligation bond program for 4.7 million dollars and we got some more money from our county commissioner, Audrey Edmonson of 1.8 million additional dollars for the restoration. We are in the process now of seeing to it that the re storation takes place. That's our big job right now, to see that that historic site is brought back to the community and that it becomes an engine for economic opportunities and for educational purposes, cultural experiences and that it will be an asset to the community rather than what it is today. That's our dream. Not as it was before. It will not be a motel but, we are hoping that it will serve the community in ways that the community needs to be served. M: What changes have you seen in the community si nce you have spent so much of your life in Miami? How have things changed from when you were growing up to the situation you see now? P: Well, I think that things have changed because there are people from all races that work toward historic preservation. That is the one thing that pulls people together. If you believe in historic preservation, you can work together on a project to restore and preserve your community You are saving the past for the future and so that is something that I have seen that has brought people together


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 7 from various walks of life. I saw the same thing happen when the Lemon City Cemetery [A cemetery in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami that was re discovered in 2009] was discovered when a developer was building apartments on wh at was an abandoned cemetery and the city of Miami said they did not know it was an abandoned cemetery when they gave the developers permission to build three apartments there. So a group of citizens got together and rallied together and formed the Lemon C ity Cemetery Community Corporation to prevent further development of that site. Today, well there is one apartment building there, but two apartment buildings were stopped from being built and the developers built a monument to the five hundred and twenty three names of persons that were buried there. We were able to discover those names; in fact, there are two additional names that we have discovered which we hope that we will be able to add in some form to the listings of persons tha t are buried there. Th en we also have a memorial garden. The rest of the property is now a memorial garden in memory of those people who are buried there. With that project, our next effort will be to get those human bones reentered into the ground. That is one of the things th at we are trying to do and the other thing is that we would like to have signage on the property which gives the history of the cemetery and how this has come into being. So those are some of the projects that I'm working on currently. The two projects I'm working on currently are the restoration of the Hampton House Motel and r einter n ment and signage for the Lemon City Cemetery.


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 8 M: I see. Where are those bones being held now that were disinterred and taken where, exactly? P: The archeologist has them now and we are hoping they will be in the ground as soon as possible. This was discovered in, I think it was 2009 when they were discovered, so it has been some time since they have been discovered and they have not been reinterre d, and this is 2012 that I'm speaking to you so it's been long enough. M: I understand that. How d i d you get started in historic preservation? How did you make that move? P: You know, I almost don't know myself how I got started into historic preservation. Well, I like history. I'm a social science major and I like history. I used to teach history and it brings history to life when you are preserving it so that younger people can see w hat went on in the past and what it was like and if we are able to respect history to that extent that you can put forth effort to preserve it and pass it on and give it respect and to educate people, to teach people to respect themselves and to respect th eir history. I think that is so important that you do whatever it takes to pass that spirit on to the next generation. M: I understand that. So you mention the Miami C ircle [A n archaeological si te in Downtown Miami, Florida; i t consists of a perfect circl e measuring 38 feet of 600 postmolds that contain 24 holes or basins cut into the limestone bedrock. It is believed to have been the location of a structure, built by the Tequesta Indians, and is believed to be somewhere between 1700 and 2000 years old ] as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that?


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 9 P: When I was president of Dade Heritage Trust, I was the first African American president of Dade Heritage Trust. That's another discovery that was discovered in Miami, Florida at the mouth of the Miami Rive r t hat there was an Indian ground there where the Indians had various relics they found and a developer wanted to put up a parking lot there and because of our mission is for preservation, I felt that you can't discriminate. You have to preserve. You have to respect everybody's history. So even though that brought in a fight against city hall, that was another battle with city hall because the city was in favor of the parking lot going up because it was going to bring taxes into the city. So it's like, you can't fight against city hall. How could you fight city hall? So we decided that our mission is historic preservation so we would have to fight city hall. We had a lawyer who said that he would file a suit, a pro bono suit to preserve the site from develop ment and then somebody asked me, suppose the city does a slap suit against Dade Heritage Trust, and I didn't even know what that was but my remark was if we say that our mission is historic preservation, we've got to do what it takes to preserve it, whatev er that's going to take. I don't know what a slap suit is all about, but we can't be afraid of the slap suit because our mission and our goal is historic preservation and that has to be the motivating factor that moves and determines what we do. So the board went along with that and we were able to win that battle. Of course, the city had to pay the developer for the property and he wanted them to pay for what he would have made had he developed the property so that was something that they had to work out. But the


URR 018; Pinkney; Page 10 circle is still there in Miami, it's preserved. The goal was met. We preserved the circle. It's there for tourist to see and anybody who wants to see it. M: That's quite the fight. P: Yes. M: Okay, I think we're out of time but thank you very much for this interview. It has been a pleasure talking with you. P: Thank you, Thank you very much. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Jordan Vaal, January 24, 2013. Audit Edited by Sarah Blanc, March 26, 2013